#DCYou Week Four: The Last Debut Books

The Spectre, Jim Corrigan, Gotham City
Gotham by Midnight #6 cover. Copyright DC Comics.

This past week includes the return of several key regular titles, such as Batgirl, The Flash, and Superman, and the last few debut series in this new wave of DC comics. Once again, the Gotham books are the ones that I enjoyed the most. I only wish the quality of the rest were up to that level.

Please, somehow, fix Teen Titans, DC.

Gotham by Midnight #6: Ray Fawkes (writer), Juan Ferreyra (artist)

A definite keeper. As I’ve said before, this focus on the supernatural in Gotham reads like an independent horror comic, and the dark color palette of the panels, with a few splashes of cover, create a unique look. This is a good jumping-on point, as the mystery surrounding each of the cast’s supernatural abilities is explored. Jim (the Spectre) Corrigan talks about having the spirit of God’s vengeance inside him, while he reveals a truth about Detective Drake’s supernatural ability. The team investigates a murderous ghost at Gotham’s suddenly ubiquitous’ Powers company, while the internal investigation by the GCPD continues, which leads to an appearance by Kate (Manhunter) Spencer.

“This is Gotham. Good people here stay ready to fight the worst case scenario… or they die.”

Buy it: Yes.

Batgirl #41: Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher (writers), Babs Tarr (artist)

I’m still not used to the younger, more carefree Barbara Gordon, but I could happily look at Tarr’s art all day. This issue isn’t so much Batgirl versus villains, although she does wreck an evil coven and confront Livewire, as it is Barbara Gordon versus Jim Gordon. In a surprise, Jim reveals his new role as the man inside the robot Batman suit to his daughter, noting that he can’t lie to her. It’s a lovely scene set at a carousel, a symbol of their shared past together, and poignant because Barbara won’t tell her father about her costumed identity. This sets up, of course, an impending battle between Gordon Batman, who’s dedicated to arresting vigilantes, and Gordon Batgirl, who’d dedicated to fighting crime.

“You look… healthy. But please put the mustache back on.”—Babs to her father. I agree. Free Gordon’s mustache!

Buy it: Yes, for the father/daughter interaction.

We Are Robin #1: Lee Bermejo (story), Jorge Corona (art), Rob Hayes (breakdowns)

This new take on the Robins of Gotham features Duke Thomas, the young boy who helped Batman during Zero Year. Duke’s at loose ends. His parents have disappeared, he’s so angry that he keeps picking fights, and he can’t seem to settle into a foster home. Instead, he heads to the underground to uncover clues to his parents’ whereabouts and stumbles onto a slimy crime lord trying to incite the underground denizens to riot. Duke is saved by the appearance of a group of mysterious individuals wearing Robin’s colors. An excellent start, especially if the man staring at the monitors at the end of the book is who I think it is. (Alfred, perhaps?)

“The future of the city is not the dark walls and cold, grey concrete its foundation stands on. It’s a place of color.”

Buy It: Yes.

Dick Grayson, Robin, Nightwing
Gotta kiss himself, he’s so pretty. Grayson #9 cover, image via DC Comics

Grayson #9:  Tom King (writer), Tim Seeley and Tom King (plot), Mikel Janin (artist)

We’re still in Gotham, at least spiritually, as we pick up the adventures of Dick Grayson, Agent of Spyral, a covert agency dedicated to… I’m not quite sure. They seemed evil when this book started, but now they’re being run by Helena Bertinelli and dedicated to getting dangerous objects out of the hands of civilians. In this issue, that’s a hunk of kryptonite being worn as jewelry by a young and fabulous woman. But the real plot concerns a mysterious figure killing agents on missions connected to Dick. I still don’t love the spy angle, but the art is fantastic.

Buy It: Yes, if only for the gorgeous two-page spread in which Dick dances with his target. Did I mention he wears a tux? This comic is obviously dedicated to making Dick Grayson as sexually appealing as possible. I have no objections.

Superman, Lois Lane, Jimmy
Superman #41, page 9, with some classic Superman/Jimmy. If only this was the main plot. Image copyright DC Comics.

Superman #41: Gene Luen Yang (writer), John Romita, Jr. (penciller), Klaus Janson (inker)

This was supposed to be the issue where we learned why Lois Lane revealed Superman’s secret identity as Clark Kent to the world. It’s not. It’s obviously the first part of a longer story that will culminate in that reveal, dragging it out for the reader as long as possible. Instead, this first part is basically a classic Daily Planet story with Clark and Jimmy investigating a politician for gun-running, while their story overlaps with Lois’ investigation from another angle. I might enjoy that, except for the whole premise that Lois would ever reveal Superman’s identity.

As a former breaking news journalist, I can tell you there’s no “rule” that forces her to out Superman. Lois would have to consider the public’s need for the truth against the possibility of innocent people being hurt because of the reveal, much as newspapers did before publishing any of Edward Snowden’s information about the U.S. government. And considering that the lives of Superman’s friends, family, neighbors, and even co-workers also might be compromised (and are, given the government is stealing half of Smallville in another comic), there’s no way she would do it. That’s not who Lois is. I don’t know why DC keeps muffing up Lois Lane (and Superman for that matter), but this needs to stop.

Buy it: No. I pass on all the Superman titles until this mess is over.

Aquaman #41: Cullen Bunn (writer), Trevor McCarthy (artist)

This run of Aquaman started with Geoff Johns insisting how bad-ass Aquaman is. Johns has long left the title, so I guess that’s established, though the reliance in the dark armor this issue is going a bit too far. Aquaman is busy tracking magical temples that keep popping up all over the world, spewing out poisonous black clouds and releasing tentacle creatures. However, these temples are also part of an effort to get refugees from another world to Earth. That’s where Aquaman parts ways with the rulers of Atlantis, which also includes his lady love, Mera.

Buy It: It’s a decent comic—only if you’re a big Aquaman fan.

Deathstroke #7:  Tony S. Daniel and James Bonny (writers), Tony S. Daniel (pencils), Sandu Florea (inks)

I would call for a moment of silence for Slade Wilson’s missing soul patch, but I’m busy wondering about too many other things in this comic. Why would an Olympian god need to hire a human assassin? Why did DC de-age Slade so he looks like every other dark-haired, ripped man in comics? I’m beginning to think they have something against people over 40. The reason I asked all these questions? Because this isn’t a great comic and Wonder Woman showing up at the end telling Slade to surrender or die with a sword strapped on her back is the least Wonder Woman-like thing she’s done lately. And that’s saying a lot. I mean, she could just tie him up with the Lasso of Truth and get him to tell her if he misses the soul patch.

Buy it: No.

Justice League 3001 #1: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Howard Porter (creators)

We have a bunch of JLA clones who are, at best, cranky and, at worst, downright mean. There’s a Lois Lane who wants to kill them, and Fire and Ice are on Earth bonding and talking about whether Etrigan is good in bed or not. It’s not funny enough to be amusing, unfortunately, and the “new” characters are so unpleasant that it’s hard to care about them. The artwork is nice to look at, particularly a two-page splash panel that shows Flash running across the page. This issue is basically a setup for a big battle with the future version of Starro the Conqueror, who’s taken over an entire planet. No fear, Supergirl is on the way, as are Blue Beetle and Booster. I love all the creators listed, but I didn’t enjoy the book.

Buy It: No, unless you are that desperate for any version of the classic Giffen Justice League.

Green Lantern: Lost Army #1: Cullen Bunn (writer), Jesus Saiz (art and cover)

In case any readers were wondering, this version of Green Lantern John Stewart is the former soldier familiar from the Justice League animated series, rather than being an architect/engineer. This is made clear via flashbacks in the middle of a space battle with what seems to be an overwhelming force. (Do Lanterns ever face any other kind?) Krona, who once tried to recreate all existence, is part of John’s team, as is a Guy Gardner with a red and green Lantern ring. We end on a cliffhanger with the team facing a scary red pyramid.

Buy It: I’m glad DC recognizes how many people love the animated version of Stewart, but this is only for Lantern die-hards.

The Flash #41: Robert Venditti and Van Jensen (writers), Brett Booth (penciller), Norm Rapmund (inker)

After reading this again, I believe I was too harsh on Lost Army. That’s an okay book. This? It’s a mess. If you want to jump onto the Flash title because you enjoyed the television show, this isn’t the issue, even if it does feature the Reverse-Flash and has a scene of Barry talking to his imprisoned father. Reverse-Flash uses evil villain speak (“I will destroy everything you hold dear.”), Barry’s dad won’t tell him why he shouldn’t ask about the name Thawne (which means that Barry will do just that), and, somehow, elder Barry breaks out of prison with some powered evil buddies to protect his son.

Buy It: No.

Teen Titans #9: Will Pfeifer (script), Kenneth Rocafort (art)

Oh, Teen Titans, how you have fallen. Once as popular in comics circles as the X-Men, this title hasn’t been good in about a decade. How DC is managing to consistently fall down on a property that has such potential to cross over to an audience who loved several versions of the animated Titans, I have no idea.

The plot? Superboy is wanted to for murder (a fugitive, like Superman), the rest of the Titans hide him, and the Wonder Girl is determined to bring them in. There are characters here with potential, such as the new Power Girl and Bunker, but they’re wasted. The last page promises Wonder Girl vs. Superboy.


Buy It: No. But send cards and letters to DC to collect the full run of Young Justice in trade. Please.

Writer, Mom, Geek and Superhero. though usually not all four on the same day. Author of the award-winning Phoenix Institute Superhero series and the steampunk novel, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract.